Spa aids spectators after ticket agency collapse

Nearly 6,000 ticket holders for next weekend’s Belgian grand prix can heave a sigh of relief.

We reported recently that paid-up clients of a company called The Ticket Enterprise (TTE) would not receive their actual tickets for the Spa-Francorchamps race because TTE had gone out of business. But according to the Belga news agency, the organiser of the fabled and popular formula one race has agreed to allow the 5,600 affected spectators to enter Spa next weekend.

The report said the news was confirmed by chief promoter Etienne Davignon at a press conference.

Davignon reportedly told the affected ticket holders to take their payment receipt to the ticket offices at the circuit next weekend, where they will sign a document ceding their rights to the promoter Spa Grand Prix. This will allow the organiser to legally claim back from TTE the value of the tickets.

“We will see how we can recover (the money),” Davignon is quoted as saying. “It is too early to judge just how much we are going to lose.”

Source:GMM

Spa alternation plans ‘no longer on agenda’

Spa-Francorchamps is no longer part of the proposal to revive the French grand prix.

Prior to ex president Nicolas Sarkozy losing the general election, plans to alternate a single annual race between Paul Ricard and Belgium’s fabled Spa were well advanced. But with Francois Hollande in power and his sports minister Valerie Fourneyron in the driving seat of the grand prix project, the situation is now very different. French reports this week say Fourneyron has told France’s motor racing sanctioning body, the FFSA, that Paul Ricard and Magny Cours are competing to secure the rights to a grand prix that the state will not contribute to financially.

And according to the Belgian news agency Belga, the formerly proposed race alternation between France and Spa will remain merely an “unconfirmed possibility”.

“Alternating with Belgium is no longer on the agenda,” a report by the French language news agency Agence France-Presse added.

Source:GMM

Lewis in the docks after winning Spa thriller

Spa HamiltonChampionship leader trades blows with Kimi en-route to a stunning Belgian GP win and then feels the wrath of the stewards.

The chaotic Ardenne climate kept on giving in Spa-Francorchamps. No sooner had Lewis Hamilton tip-toed to a sensational win in the wet, race stewards announced they were investigating the McLaren driver for gaining an unfair advantage over Kimi Raikkonen, who succumbed to the treacherous conditions in the dying laps, taking his title hopes with him into the wall. Hamilton barely had time to celebrate his win, let alone reflect on the fact that he had just survived one of the most thrilling and dangerous climaxes to a grand prix unscathed.

The point of controversy was a tangle between the two drivers when the rain began to fall on Lap 42. Raikkonen headed Hamilton by around five seconds after Lewis gifted him the lead by slipping up at La Source on the second lap. The showers which would have prompted the drivers to change tyres had it not come so late in proceedings reduced the gap to nothing as Hamilton, the more comfortable of the two on the slippery track, tried to out-fox Raikkonen for the lead, while battling to keep his McLaren pointing in the right direction.

He took the early initiative when he charged up alongside Raikkonen going into the Bus Stop chicane. But Raikkonen held his ground on the inside and forced Hamilton to cut across the track. The McLaren driver, anticipating the interest from the stewards, backed off to allow Raikkonen to re-take the lead, but then dived up the inside at La Source hairpin.

“He pushed me wide (at the Bus Stop), I was slightly ahead, and I was on the outside. He should have been fair as I had no room,” said Hamilton.

“He basically pushed me onto the kerb and I took the escape road. I let him past but then caught his toe. He was ducking and diving, I did the same and managed to get him. He hit me again on the apex (of La Source), but I was pretty much off on my way at that point.”

The stewards saw differently. After investigating the incident they felt that Hamilton and been advantaged by the momentum he gained from cutting the escape road, and subsequently docked him with a 25 second time penalty, enough to gift Felipe Massa the victory, and promote Nick Heidfeld to second place. The decision has huge ramifications on the drivers championship with Massa now sitting a mere two points behind Hamilton.

McLaren maintain that Hamilton lifted off to allow Raikkonen past and they have confirmed that they will appeal against the decision.

“We have no option other than to register our intention to appeal,” a McLaren spokesperson said in Spa-Francorchamps. “We have studied the details and put them before the FIA stewards. They show that after cutting the chicane Lewis lifted off, he was 6 kph slower than Kimi.”

“After conceding the lead to Kimi, Lewis repositioned his car on the right and beat Kimi on the brakes going into the hairpin.”

An appeal may not be heard until after the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which could leave uncertainty hanging over the drivers’ championship. The decision has already caused outrage amongst Formula One fans.

The announcement also detracted from what was a thrilling end to the Belgian Grand Prix. After edging past Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton then went on to lose the lead as the drivers battled to keep their cars on the track.

As the rain began to fall harder Hamilton lost the lead momentarily in the run up to Fagnes where he ran wide across the grass to avoid Nico Rosberg who was rejoining the track after his own spin. Raikkonen moved ahead only to spin his Ferrari seconds later, once again gifting the lead to Hamilton. Perhaps trying too hard to make up ground, Raikkonen then lost the rear end of his Ferrari on the exit of Blanchimont, which pitched him and perhaps his chances of defending his world championship into the wall.

That promoted to team-mate Felipe Massa to second, who was far enough back from Hamilton to allow the McLaren driver to tip-toe to his provisional victory.

“It was a race and a half,” said Hamilton afterwards. “I could see Kimi ahead and after the second pit stop he was so far ahead that I was just pushing and pushing trying to close the gap. It was mix and match. I was just praying ‘please rain’, I wanted it to rain because I know how to deal with it.”

“So the heavens opened and I saw Kimi begin to back off, and then the fight was on. At Turn 12 I went really wide; Rosberg had spun onto the track and I nearly crashed into the side of him, Kimi almost did the same, and I went over the grass. Kimi spun again and it was straight forward from there.”

Behind the leading pair, Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso had gambled on a change of tyres which enabled them to leap frog the Toro Rosso drivers and Robert Kubica for third and fourth – which for Heidfeld would eventually become second. Alonso found himself entrenched in a fierce scrap for position at the final corner and manage to overtake both Vettel and Kubica in a single swoop.

Sebastien Bourdais, who had driven supremely throughout the weekend – and was running as high as third place as a result of the chaos – spun on the final lap relinquishing fifth and sixth places to team-mate Sebastian Vettel and Kubica.

It was disastrous race for Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren who finished the race on the sidelines after stopping out on the track on the final lap. The Finn lost considerable ground at the first corner, dropping to eighth, and was then given a drive through penalty for pitching Mark Webber into a spin at the Bus Stop chicane.

Belgian GP: Stewards’ ruling in full

Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his victory in Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday after stewards deemed the McLaren driver to have gained an advantage by cutting a chicane during a scrap with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

The stewards dealt Hamilton with a 25 second time penalty which was enough to gift the win to Felipe Massa.

Below is the statement from the stewards explaining their verdict.

From: The stewards of the meeting

To: The team manager, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

The stewards, having received a report from the Race Director and having met with the drivers and team managers involved, have considered the following matter, determine a breach of the regulations has been committed by the competitor and impose the penalty referred to.

No./driver: 22, Lewis Hamilton

Time: 15:21:33

Facts: Cut the chicane and gained an advantage

Offence: Breach of Article 30.3(a) of the 2008 FIA Formula 1 sporting regulations and Appendix L chapter 4 Article 2 (go) of the International Sporting Code.

Penalty: Drive-through penalty (Article 16.3 (a)), since this is being applied at the end of the race, 25 seconds will be added to the driver s elapsed race time.

FIA Stewards of the Meeting

Received by: Lewis Hamilton, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Alonso: Renault can be third best team

Alonso SpaA late gamble to switch to wet tyres coupled with an uncompromising overtaking manoeuvre in the final corner vaulted Fernando Alonso into fourth place in Spa-Francorchamps, as Renault bid to home in on their championship rivals.

The double world champion, who has made clear his desire to switch to a championship contending team for 2009, underlined the improvements Renault have made in the latter part of the season by planting his R28 on the third row of the grid in Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.

And after storming past Robert Kubica and the Toro Rosso drivers in the final rain-hit laps to take fourth place, albeit by virtue of a decision to switch to wet tyres, Fernando Alonso is convinced that Renault are now well-placed to take the fight to BMW Sauber in the remaining races.

“It’s a good result for the team, especially for our position in the championship because our objective was to score some important points,” he said. “We missed out on a podium today, but we have shown that we can be the third strongest team in the championship.”

With Toyota failing to score a point after Timo Glock was penalised for overtaking under yellow flags, Renault have now closed the gap to their immediate championship rivals to just five points.

The result buoyed the team’s senior management ahead of the Italian GP in Monza: “We had a good strategy today and Fernando did everything right, which paid us back with a fourth place just behind the top two teams,” said Flavio Briatore.

“It’s an encouraging result that we are pleased to score for ING in the Belgian Grand Prix, and we now want to maintain this momentum for Monza next week. We are confident that we can continue fighting back in the constructors’ championship.”

Technical director Pay Symounds added: “Once again, unpredictability produced a superb race. It’s pleasing for us that the car was very quick in the dry conditions and that we achieved a good finishing position through fantastic driving from Fernando and good team work from everyone. Our target is fourth position in the championship and today was a good step towards that.”

Lewis wins rain-hit frenzy in Spa

Spa Hamilton Late showers put Kimi’s title hopes in the wall, and leave Lewis victorious.

Lewis Hamilton tip-toed to his ninth career victory in Spa-Francorchamps after late rain hit the track with only two laps to go, leaving the front-runners to battle to the chequered flag on dry tyres.

The British ace gifted Kimi Raikkonen the race lead after slipping up at La Source on the second lap. The Finn drove a majestic and arguably career-saving race to lead by around three seconds when the rain began to fall.

The showers which would have prompted the drivers to change tyres had it not come so late in proceedings reduced the gap to nothing as Hamilton, the more comfortable of the two on the slippery track, tried to out-fox Raikkonen for the lead, while battling to keep his McLaren pointing in the right direction.

He took the early initiative when he charged up alongside Raikkonen going into the Bus Stop chicane on Lap 42. But Raikkonen held his ground on the inside and forced Hamilton to cut across the track. To avoid a penalty the British ace backed off to allow Raikkonen to re-take the lead, but then dived up the inside at La Source hairpin.

“He pushed me wide (at the Bus Stop), I was slightly ahead, and I was on the outside: he should have been fair as I had no room,” said Hamilton.

“He basically pushed me onto the kerb and I took the escape road. I let him past but then caught his toe. He was ducking and diving, I did the same and managed to get him. He hit me again on the apex (of La Source), but I was pretty much on the go.”

As the rain began to fall harder Hamilton lost the lead momentarily in the run up to Fagnes where he ran wide across the grass to avoid Nico Rosberg who was rejoining the track after his own spin. Raikkonen moved ahead only to spin his Ferrari seconds later, once again gifting the lead to Hamilton. Perhaps trying too hard to make up ground, Raikkonen then lost the rear end of his Ferrari on the exit of Blanchimont, which pitched him and perhaps his chances of defending his world championship into the wall.

That promoted to team-mate Felipe Massa to second, who was far enough back from Hamilton to allow the McLaren driver to tip-toe to his ninth career victory, and his fifth this season.

“It was a race and a half,” said Hamilton afterwards. “I could see Kimi ahead and after the second pit stop he was so far ahead that I was just pushing and pushing trying to close the gap. It was mix and match. I was just praying ‘please rain’, I wanted it to rain because I know how to deal with it.”

“So the heavens opened and I saw Kimi begin to back off, and then the fight was on. At Turn 12 I went really wide; Rosberg had spun onto the track and I nearly crashed into the side of him, Kimi almost did the same, and I went over the grass. Kimi spun again and it was straight forward from there.”

Behind the leading pair, Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso had gambled on a change of tyres which enabled them to leap frog the Toro Rosso drivers and Robert Kubica for third and fourth. Alonso found himself entrenched in a fierce scrap for position at the final corner and manage to overtake both Vettel and Kubica in a single swoop.

Sebastien Bourdais, who had driven supremely throughout the weekend – and was running as high as third place as a result of the chaos – spun on the final lap relinquishing fifth and sixth places to team-mate Sebastian Vettel and Kubica.

It was disastrous race for Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren who finished the race on the sidelines after stopping out on the track on the final lap. The Finn lost considerable ground at the first corner, dropping to eighth, and was then given a drive through penalty for pitching Mark Webber into a spin at the Bus Stop chicane.

The incident cost Webber momentum and he wound up ninth overall, behind Toyota’s Timo Glock who picked up the final points paying position.

Updated: In a controversial ruling, race stewards awarded a retrospective 25 second penalty on race winner Lewis Hamilton, gifting the race win to Ferrari s Felipe Massa and demoting Hamilton to third place.

Lewis: We can fight Ferrari in Spa

Lewis Hamiltonleader Lewis Hamilton expects McLaren to be more of a match for Ferrari at Spa-Francorchamps than they were last year.

Ferrari dominated the race with a 1-2 finish last year while McLaren were affected by the outbreak of the spy-scandal.

Hamilton arrives at Spa with a mere six point advantage over Felipe Massa, but he is confident that the MP4-23 will be better suited to the demands of the undulating track.

“The tracks with long straights they have a slight advantage than we generally do, but I think it will balance out,” Hamilton told reporters. “Here they will be strong like they were last year. We have made a step forward with our car and we should be able to challenge them. Last year we weren’t in a position to do so.”

“I think in Monza they will probably be a lot quicker than they were last year, but I still feel we will have the upper hand. I honestly feel we’ve the better package for the remaining races. They are going to be able to challenge us, but I feel we have the upper hand,” added the Briton.

With only a six point lead in the championship, Hamilton admits he is taking nothing for granted in the crucial remaining races of the season.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in a comfortable position. You should never feel that because if you do then it’s over,” he said.

“I’m still attacking and I’m still driving for the last race and the end result, not focusing on just winning this race. I’m focusing on making sure I have more points than anyone else at the end of the season.

“I hope we are able to challenge Ferrari, not only in the drivers’ championship, but also the constructors’. We do have a package to be able to do that.”

Lewis looking forward to Spa challenge

Spa 3Lewis Hamilton struggled to get to grips with his McLaren-Mercedes at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps track last year, his explosive run-in with Fernando Alonso at Hungary still playing with his mind.

A post-race analysis back at Woking identified where he had gone wrong, and he bounced back with a stunning win in the wet at Japan.

One year on and the British hope is once again entrenched in a fierce battler for the world championship. This time though he should be better equipped for the high-speed demands of the undulating Spa Francorchamps road course.

“It s one of my all-time favourites,” enthuses the Briton. “Even before I first came here, which was back in 2002 for a Formula Renault race, I played it on my computer – it was always one of the best tracks.”

“It has probably the most exciting corner in Formula 1, Eau Rouge, and it s one of the few circuits where you really feel like you’re actually going somewhere; you blast off into the forest and get to the top of the hill and can feel the whole circuit beneath you. It s one of the best challenges in Formula 1.”

Spa

Spa Francorchamps was taken off the calendar in 2003 due to a row over tobacco sponsorship, and it is not the only ‘historic’ track to have come under threat as Formula One expands to emerging global venues.

Hamilton admits that there is an extra buzz at these classic tracks: “I prefer the more historic circuits like Monza, Silverstone and Monaco. You really feel the history of those places whenever you race there; they have real character.”

“Each time they are refurbished, they lose a little more of their individuality – but they are made safer, so we can continue to race on them – so that s a good compromise.”

SPA 2

Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen is also relishing the prospect of racing at Spa: “When you talk about Spa, everybody thinks about Eau Rouge – but the bigger challenge is Pouhon; it s a sweeping, downhill left-hander and is very fast indeed.”

“It s almost flat, but not quite, so it s quite tricky to find a balance that allows you to attack without going off. Drivers love corners like this – high-speed turns that are not quite flat: that s where the real excitement lies because it s up to the driver to make the difference.”

“Spa is a big, fast circuit and still feels a little bit dangerous. For a driver, that always gives you an added element of excitement – it s fast and narrow, almost like a street circuit between the trees. And it s long, so it s very difficult to string a good lap together.”

“The most important thing you need here is bravery: you really need to attack the corners faster than your brain is telling you to. You ve got to keep the throttle flat even if it doesn t look possible, you have to trust your instincts and just put the danger out of your mind. It s a real driver s circuit.”